ERIE, Pa. -- Fort the first time since the 1987-88 season, West Texas A&M advanced to the national championship game with a hard-fought 80-66 victory against Nova Southeastern on Wednesday evening in the national semifinals at the Erie Insurance Arena. With the win, WT improved to 32-2 on the year, while Nova Southeastern ends its season at 29-5.
“I tip my hat to Nova Southeastern,” head coach Mark Kellogg said. “That’s a really good basketball team and they gave us everything we wanted. Their second half run, if we hadn’t built up that cushion, it might have been a different story. They are so good in their man offense. I was proud of our defense for the first 30 minutes.”
White led four Lady Buffs in double figures as senior Devin Griffin also had a double-double with 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. Senior Lacee Logan paced the team with four triples on 5 of 9 shooting for 15 points, while senior Raven Gerald had 14 points with two triples. Senior Casey Land struggled from the field (3 of 11) and one triple, but set a career-high with 11 assists which were the most assists in a game in the Lone Star Conference this season.
WT shot 44.3 percent from the field for the game on 27 of 61. The Lady Buffs were 7 of 19 from range and 19 of 26 from the line. WT again dominated the boards, this time by 11 outrebounding the Sharks 46-35.
NSU was led by 21 points from Taylor Buie on 8 of 17 from the field and five triples. Amanda Burakoski chipped in 14 points on 5 of 11 from the field and two treys, while Danielle Robinson had 12 points with two triples.
The Sharks were held to 39.1 percent shooting on 25 of 64. They were 10 of 26 from range, but were just 6 of 10 from the line.
With the win, the Lady Buffs advance to the national championship game for the first time since 1988 where it lost to Hampton Institute 65-48 on Mar. 26. It also marks the first time WT, as a school, will play for a national championship in a team sports since 2009 when the volleyball team lost to Concordia-St. Paul 3-0.
WT becomes the first women’s basketball team in the LSC to play in the national championship since 2002 when Southeastern Oklahoma State played Cal Poly Pomona and lost.
Three consecutive triples by Logan got the Lady Buffs off to a quick 9-2 start. After a Sharks’ bucket, White was fouled for the “and one” making the score 11-4 with 17:17 left. Senior Raven Gerald got into the triples act for a 15-4 lead, moments later. WT started the game 4 for 4 from beyond the arc.
Back-to-back and-ones by Burakoski brought Nova Southeastern to a 16-15 deficit with an 11-1 run during the last 4:29 as WT missed its last seven shots. A bucket in the paint from junior Jordan Vessels out of the second media timeout ended the run and swelled the lead to 18-15.
WT countered with a 6-0 run over the last 3:14 as it turned the Sharks over three times and NSU went 0 of its last five and a 22-15 WT lead with 8:13 left in the first half. A bucket inside from White with a nice bounce pass from senior Casey Land swelled the lead to 24-15 with 6:45 left.
Since game was 16-15 in favor of WT, the Lady Buffs went on a 10-2 run for a 26-17 lead with 5:38 left. A steal and layup from Land swelled the lead to 28-17 out of a timeout by the Sharks extending the run to 12-2 in the last 6:37. Gerald buried her second triple for a 31-17 advantage and another timeout by NSU with 4:50 left.
WT hasn’t trailed at any point in two games in Erie.
A triple by Burakoski ended the run and was just the second field goal in the last 10 for the Sharks and a 31-20 WT advantage with four minutes left in the half. Gerald drained a long-range jumper with 3.4 seconds left in the half for a 42-27 lead at intermission.
For the half, WT shot 17 of 39 from the field for 43.6 percent. The Lady Buffs were 5 of 13 from beyond the arc and 3 of 7 from the line. Logan led the team with 11 points on 4 of 6 from the field and 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Gerald also was in double figures with 10 points on 4 of 8 from the field with two triples.
NSU shot 10 of 27 from the field and 4 of 11 from beyond the arc. The Sharks were 3 of 5 from the line. WT held a 26-17 lead in rebounding and a 12-4 advantage on the offensive end.
Out of the gates in the second half, two quick buckets and a steal and layup from Land swelled the lead to 46-27 with 19 minutes left. Danielle Robinson drained a triple for a 46-30 score with 18 minutes remaining.
White ended a 6-0 run by the Sharks with her ninth rebound and foul for a 47-33 score with 17:37 left. White then garnered her 10th rebound for her second double-double in the quarterfinals with two charity tosses and a 49-35 lead with 16:44 left.
A triple from Land swelled the lead to 54-39 with 14:45 remaining as it was her first triple of the game. A triple from Logan, her fourth of the game, swelled the lead to the largest of the game at 57-39 with 13:41 left and timeout by NSU.
Out of the timeout, Griffin scored inside for her 11th point of the game off her own offensive rebound for her double-double and a 59-39 lead. A miscue followed for NSU as Griffin scored once again inside for a 61-39 lead with 12:30 left and a 10-0 run.
White scored a hoop-and-harm foul for a 68-42 lead extended the Lady Buff lead to 17-3 during the last 5:42 and 10 minutes remaining.
Two free throws by Robinson cut the deficit to 20 out of the second to last media timeout at 68-48 with 7:15 left. Robinson then drained a triple cutting the deficit to 68-51 with 6:39 left as the Sharks were on a 9-0 run in the last 1:54 to try and get back in the game.
White scored two free throws ending an 11-0 run by the Sharks with 3:32 left. Two more free throws swelled the lead to 72-58 with 2:50 left. Burakoski scored on the inside cutting the deficit to 12 with 2:10 left. Griffin made one of two free throws for a 73-60 lead with less than two minutes left.
Taylor Buie hit a triple and timeout for a 73-63 lead with 1:26 left. Since the 10 minute mark, which was the last time WT scored a field goal, NSU went on a 21-5 run. WT iced the game down the stretch with free throws for the 80-66 win.